By Joe Whalen
A Rocky Mountain College football player was arrested Saturday on a charge of assaulting a game official an alleged attack apparently unprecedented in college athletics moments after Montana State University-Northern's 31-28 overtime defeat of Rocky at Blue Pony Stadium.
The player sprinted about 60 yards and hit umpire Rick Deady in the back with a forearm at full speed, knocking the official to the ground, said Charlie Klimas, an evaluator of Frontier Conference football officials at all Northern home games this season.
Marlon Grier, a senior linebacker from Rocky playing in the final game of his college football career, was immediately arrested by a Hill County sheriff's deputy and transported to the Hill County Detention Center in handcuffs. He was released two hours later after three assistant coaches from Rocky arranged to post $530 bond.
Grier, a 24-year-old native of Charlotte, N.C., was charged with assault on a sports official, a misdemeanor, and issued a notice to appear in Hill County Justice Court Tuesday at 10 a.m. If convicted of the charge, Grier faces maximum penalties of six months in jail and $1,000 fine.
"I know of assaults taking place on officials at the amateur level, and at the professional level, but never at the college level, and certainly not by a player," said Bob Still, public relations director for the National Association of Sports Officials in Racine, Wis. "We've researched our files through Referee Magazine, and we found no incident of this type reported, and nothing like this at a sanctioned NAIA athletic event."
Rocky scored two touchdowns that were called back on penalties, one with the score tied and five seconds left in regulation and one on the initial possession of overtime. Northern won with a field goal.
Deady, a program specialist for Montana Job Training Partnership who was born in Havre and lived there before moving to Helena in 1988, refused to comment at the scene. When contacted by phone this morning, Deady said his muscles were sore but that he otherwise was not injured.
"There's never a justification for that kind of action," Deady said. "To my knowledge, I made no calls involving this particular player, and the two touchdowns that were called back were flagged by other officials."
While handcuffed, Grier, responding to taunts from two fans, attempted to break from custody and confront the fans before being further restrained.
"If you got something to say, (expletive) say it to my face," Grier said.
After Grier was released from custody about 6 p.m., two Rocky assistant coaches said the player refused to comment.
Grier and the Rocky football program may face disciplinary action from Frontier Conference Commissioner Ron Kenison. The Billings school's athletic program could be penalized by the Frontier Conference board of directors, which is chaired by University of Montana-Western Chancellor Steve Hulbert, and sanctioned by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
"If (Grier) had been a junior, he'd be done. We're not going to stand for anything like that," said Kenison, now in his sixth year as commissioner. "This is the first time that I know of that something like this has happened in the Frontier Conference in any sport. It sheds a negative light on athletics. If you can't learn self-control, which athletics is supposed to teach, you shouldn't be playing. Some form of disciplinary action is necessary."
When informed this morning of the incident, Matt Fry, NAIA director of legislative services, said he had never heard of a player assaulting an official at the college level.
"Our files go back five years," Fry said. "I've looked through all of them, and I can't recall anything like that off the top of my head. As far as my records show, we don't have any precedent on this matter."
Klimas, the Frontier Conference evaluator, said he witnessed the assault from the stadium press box.
"It was one of the true real cheap shots I've ever seen, you know, coming up from behind a guy like that," said Klimas, Havre High's activities director from 1986 until June 14, 2001. "This kid takes a beeline, and he sprints as fast and as hard as he can. He's got his eyes on Rick Deady, and he charged him with a forearm shiver. He just ran right over the top of him."
A student at Philadelphia Community College was arrested in 1998 for allegedly punching a referee in the face during an athletic event. Upon conviction, the student was sentenced to 200 hours of community service. The official needed six stitches to close a cut on his head.
Deady said he has not considered retiring from officiating.
"I'll be back," Deady said. "I'll be officiating football when the season starts next fall."